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Tory Islamophobia Report Criticised For Failing To Look At The Root Cause Of Party’s Problem

Tory Islamophobia Report Criticised For Failing To Look At The Root Cause Of Party’s Problem

The Muslim Council of Britain have criticised a long-awaited probe into discrimination in the Conservative Party (Alamy)

5 min read

The Muslim Council of Britain have criticised a long-awaited probe into alleged discrimination within the Conservatives for “falling short of acknowledging the root causes” of Islamophobia in the party.

The independent review, published today, found evidence of "overt and nasty" discrimination, but concluded there was no "systemic" problem within the Tories.

But the council, which represents hundreds of mosques across Britain, along with Muslim organisations and charities, could only give the report a “guarded welcome” and said it “does not address the structural nature of Islamophobia” in the party.

Labour has said the results of the inquiry, led by Professor Swaran Singh, are a “damning indictment of the discrimination rife in the Conservative Party, and it goes all the way up to the Prime Minister”.

But while the report showed that Boris Johnson was sorry for "any offence taken" over his comments in a 2018 Daily Telegraph column in which he described Muslim women who wear the burka as looking like "letterboxes" and "bank robbers", the Prime Minister still appeared to defend his work.  

He insisted "in journalism you need to use language freely”, and while he said he would not make the comments in his current position, he stopped well short of renouncing them entirely. 

The MCB said the Conservative Party “must acknowledge the scale of the problem, apologise for the failures highlighted and adopt the investigation’s recommendations”.They criticised the report for not looking at “how racism had impacted many elements of its culture, and how the party had been disingenuous in its public responses”, and failed to recommend specific training related to Islam and Muslims.

“The investigation primarily deals with form over substance. Procedure is important, but it needs to be underpinned by dealing with the deep seated issues of institutional racism," the MCB's general secretary, Zara Mohammed, said. 

“We hope that this is the starting point of the party’s own self-reflection. Regardless, it is imperative for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to determine whether any breaches of law have taken place.”

The MCB laid out a number of additional recommendations which it believes are necessary, including an apology for the party’s “most prominent failures in tackling Islamophobia”, as well as taking action in historic cases which were previously dismissed, and adopting the definition of Islamophobia as laid out by the all-party parliamentary group on the subject.

Shadow Women and Equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova also called for a public apology from the party over the report's findings, particularly in relation to Johnson's burka comments. 

“Reports of Islamophobic hate crime spiralled in the weeks after Boris Johnson likened women who wear the burka to 'letterboxes' and 'bank robbers'," she said. 

"He must now issue a full and proper public apology that acknowledges the pain and hurt he has caused in the Muslim community, as well as taking meaningful action to rebuild trust, especially among Muslim women.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former chair of the Conservative party, said: "The urgency and extent of change recommended and required by the report is an acknowledgment of the scale of the problem and evidence of a system that failed to protect victims of racism.

"It also highlights the victimisation of complainants painted as troublemakers for speaking out.”

She believed the report reveals “a disconnect and lack of engagement with Muslim communities, and that a conflating of extremism with Muslims should ‘not prevent the Party from significantly improving its community outreach efforts among Muslim communities’."

“This is the securitisation lens I've warned of,” Warsi added. 

The Conservative former Cabinet minister Sajid Javid, who had challenged the candidates in 2019's party leadership contest, including Johnson, to commit to a probe, said he "welcomed" the publication of the report.

"Although the investigation didn't find any evidence of institutional or systemic anti-Muslim prejudice, it did find distressing examples of anti-Muslim sentiment at local Association and individual levels, as well as serious shortcomings in the Party's complaints process," Javid said.

"Stamping out discrimination, whether against Muslims or any other minority group, is an issue where our country's political parties have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership."He added: "I strongly urge the Conservative Party to adopt the independent investigation's recommendations – unconditionally and in full.”

The inquiry also examined the unsuccessful mayoral campaign run in London by Lord Zac Goldsmith against Sadiq Khan in 2016, which he he acknowledged was "ugly and heavily racially charged".

The report said the Tory peer "accepts poor judgment in the way his campaign was conducted, but forcefully denies harbouring anti-Muslim sentiments or using such sentiments for political advantage".

In response a spokesperson for Khan told PoliticsHome: "Professor Singh's report is deeply concerning and shows the Conservatives are still not doing enough to tackle Islamophobia within their party.

"Political parties should be safe spaces, free from hate. Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and any form of racism or prejudice is totally unacceptable. We need to make sure there is a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime, wherever it's found.

"Sadiq sincerely hopes this report marks a turning point in Tory attitudes and the way they conduct their election campaigns."

Iman Atta, director of the campaign group Tell MAMA, which monitors anti-Muslim attacks, said: "All political parties in this country should have zero tolerance to anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia.

"Tell MAMA is well placed given the decade of work monitoring, tackling and supporting victims of anti-Muslim hatred, to assist all political parties going forward.

"There is no room for complacency whatsoever in tackling this form of poisonous hatred."

A Conservative Party spokesperson said the Party was considering the report's recommendations and would be issuing a response today. 

A spokesperson from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “We are pleased to see that the independent investigation has now published its report.

“We have been kept informed of the progress of the investigation by Professor Singh and will evaluate his team’s findings carefully. 

“We will assess the report alongside the investigation’s terms of reference and await the Conservative Party’s response on the actions they will take.

“This process will take some time and we do not anticipate making any further comments until that work is completed.”